Yialo Yialo (Platis Gialos, Mikonos 846 00, Greece Phone: +30 2289 078916) is one of their highly regarded restaurants at Platys gialos (one of the popular beaches of the Island of Mykonos). It is located right on the beach. The cooking is casual Greek/Mediterranean, with a contemporary touch in the presentation.

Mykonian onion pie was freshly baked, and tasted great.  a great crust. it was stuffed with tyrovolia (a Mykonian soft white cheese), 3 types of local onions, aneth. 8/10

tzatziki – I had stellar tzatziki in my life. this was not stellar, but really good (nicely balanced fresh acidity) 8/10

Herb crusted rack of lamb with baby potatoes and feta cheese mousse – the Greeks cook their lamb longer than what we are accustomed to in North America. Therefore, we are not in the same logic of the rose lamb rack’s meat that we tend to favor in North American. I was prepared to that. That layer of  crust on my rack of lamb is not my first choice, traditionally, but the lamb remained tender and was seasoned exquisitely.  

Greek Pizza had enticing fresh feta and  tomato flavours. A really good freshly baked pizza 7/10

Overall food rating: 7.5/10

Bottom line: Yes, Platys Gialos is a touristy area, but on the back of my meal, I cannot accuse Yialo Yialo of serving touristy food to its tourists. It has a talented kitchen with Chefs who have a good palate and seem to care about the little details that makes food better (freshness of the food, vibrant flavours). 

Vizantino taverna (18 Kydatheneon Street, Plaka, Athens Phone +30 21 0322 7368)
Stumbled upon this  taverna of Plaka while walking in Plaka.

Spinach cheese pie – not freshly baked, meaning reheated, consequently hard and dry

Veal with eggplant – delicious eggplant, delicious sauce BUT The meat was reheated, therefore…again, it was dry … and could not  taste as meaty as it should have been. 

Lamb lemon sauce – at first, it was available. Then 5 minutes later, it was not …anymore. Therefore, they asked if I would like some grilled lamb, instead, which I agreed on, only to discover that … even the grilled lamb …they managed to  reheat it…!!

Overall food rating: 0/10 Dear cooks at vizantino, how would you feel if reheated food was served to you at a restaurant? Chances are that you would find it insulting and you would confront the restaurant staff. I happen to be well behaved and I do not go to restaurants to confront anyone, but ….by respect to the hard work of the honest workers of the restaurant industry, I hope that  words will spread so that you start realizing  that what you would not accept to be fed on…well, you SHOULD NOT feed people with it.   Yes, you are popular, but in an instance like this, what I could not fail to observe is that there were just tourists at your restaurant, which, btw.. should not be an excuse …for a serious restaurant, I mean…to serve reheated food – On the back of this meal, you do not seem interested to be a serious restaurant. You are an insult to the hard working and proud professionals that I have met all along this trip in Greece, namely the folks at Argo, the Old tavern of Psaras, Avli Tou Thodori, To Ouzeri, Yialo Yialo, all true restaurants professional who are located in places far more beautiful and touristy than the “slum village” corner of Plaka where you are operating and could have rested on their laurels because tourists would flock to their restaurants, anyways. But herein lies the difference between you and them: they are professionals. You are not.

Manas  Kouzina-Kouzina (27 Eolou st, Agias Irinis square, phone: 30 210 3252 335) was on my way while I was taking a walk nearby. 

They cook food from all across Greece. I was there at 5pm, and at that time, what was available was basically precooked / reheated buffet food that was left from lunch. In the evening, you have a proper a la carte menu with freshly cooked food.

I picked a moussaka, which was less heavy on the stomach than your usual mom and pop moussaka, but it was a delicious moussaka, done well. This was a legit version of the moussaka, which deserved a better faith than being served reheated.

A cheese pie that I am sure would have pleased much more than the  reheated version I was having. 

A piece of feta cheese revealed a sense of careful sourcing. 

Overall food rating: 0/10. There is no other rating for reheated food and I can rate only what I ate. That said, Manas Kouzina-Kouzina was not dishonest (as they clearly mentioned that if I wanted the A la carte freshly cooked food, it was available later on in the evening), and their reheated food left me with the impression that the “real freshly cooked thing”, in the evening, has the potential to not be that bad at all. I will return in the evening to try their a la carte freshly cooked food in the evening.

Fato a Mano  (Meletopoulou square Mykonos Greece, Greece Phone: +30 2289 026256) cooks Mediterranean  food (Greek, Italian), is located in Mykonos Town, and has the longest salad menu I ever saw at a restaurant in Mykonos. The place looks cozy with comfortable chairs and dominant earthy colours.

Feta cheese, honey, sesame and cinnamon / pleasant firm texture, fine produce . such typical Greek combination of honey and cheese tantalizes the palate, in general, as it happened right here, in Mykonos, the day before, but at Fato a Mano, it tasted  surprisingly  ordinary. This is the sort of window of opportunity that a kitchen brigade should seize to showcase wit, personal touch, skills. Greeks rarely fail to miss this one… 6/10

I also had grilled sea bream which was cooked properly, nicely seasoned. 7/10

Baklava was not the best I had, but not bad at all,  neither as it was tasty enough. That said,  this was not as flaky, crispy and tender as the far better baklava I had in Mykonos, Santorini or Athens during this trip. 5/10

Overall food rating: 6/10

Service is fabulous here. And Fato a Mano was a pleasant experience, but on the culinary front, I was not moved: yes, I liked my sea bream and indeed, it was nicely seasoned, but the grilled feta cheese and baklava were the true “tests” where the kitchen’s skills needed to shine, exactly like what  Avli did with a simple pita bread or Yialo   with a simple freshly baked pie. I am not asking the moon, just that little extra step that awakes the palate.

Restaurant Bonaparte (443 rue Saint-François Xavier, Montreal, Phone 514-844 4368) is a French restaurant offering classic French cuisine in the Vieux Port of Montreal. Their Chef, Gérard Fort, from the French region of Normandie, did work for 3 star Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse years ago.

It has been more than 5 years that I have not dined at Le Bonaparte. I used to frequent Le Bonaparte and Chez Delmo, when I was working nearby. Chez Delmo has changed physically (I miss the old world decor)  and  I found its  culinary performance not as stellar as it once was. Still, Chez Delmo is nice by our (admittedly) not that strong (in general — as there are exceptions, of course) local restaurant standards. Le Bonaparte continued to maintain itself among my preferred classic French restaurants in town.

 

Raviolis de champignons (mushroom raviolis), Proper al dente texture. Champignons de Paris was the appropriate mushroom to use, in this case. Butter/sage sauce using fine quality butter. Tasty 7/10

Navarin de homard a la vanille (Vanilla, muscat wine flavored lobster stew) – Different Chefs, different twists, preparations of navarin sauce can vary widely from the ordinary to the stellar. This one tried to be more contemporary (flavors are not bold, presentation is elegant, the vegetables not cooked in the stew which, for the purist in me, does not really qualify as a lobster stew/ navarin de homard )than traditional (a ragout/ all components are cooked in the stew). Regardless of the twist, I came to expect bold flavors from the best lobster navarin I had. This was a bit too subtle in flavor… for a navarin de homard, though executed properly, with quality ingredients (the butter that they use to make their sauces is of great quality, the creme fraiche too, the muscat wine blends harmoniously well in that sauce).  A good —not great — take on the navarin de homard. And yep, I know, there is a limit to how bold creme fraiche and vanilla can be, BUT I had more exciting lobster navarin that were made of those same components. Still, this, in light of what you will find in Montreal, was good 7/10

Grand Marnier soufflé – a tad less spectacular, in looks, than the one I had recently at Chez la Mere Michel, but airier. The grand marnier fragrance in evidence. Very good. 8/10

Profiteroles- The puff did rise, at some point, for sure, but that was a useless process…as the choux pastry arrived at my table in its non edible form (very hard). I forced myself to eat it just to be polite, fearing the anger of Napoleon Bonaparte….0/10

The flavors are not boldly, but properly French. A compromise between the old (rustic) and the new (the rich flavor is there, but there is also a health-conscious touch in the plate).

Pros: One elegant French classic restaurant in town.

Cons: (1) those profiteroles should not have left any kind of kitchen, even at a hole-in-a-wall eatery, let alone a kitchen charging those prices (2)the pastas served with the navarin de homard was overcooked. A slip that reduced the enjoyment of that dish. Not a badly conceived navarin de homard for a navarin de homard revisited with  a contemporary (a navarin not cooked as a ragout) and international (addition of the pasta) touch, but you will not be floored if you are a purist, although, to be fair, the french technique of the sauce is legit.

Overall food performance (Categ: Montreal Classic French restaurants), a LIGHT  7/10. Fine enough, by Mtl classic French cooking standards, but I was not moved in a way that equivalent restaurants (of same price range, cooking the same type of classic French food), located abroad, not even in France, have been able to move me. I would perhaps rate such meal with a 6/10 if we were in NYC. Others would not forgive the slip of the profiteroles (which I did not forgive, neither, but does a fine enough overall meal deserve a 4 or 5/10 because of some disappointing choux pastry?? I did not think so).

Bottom line: As a reminder, the ratings of my meals are based on the standards set by the direct local competition of the restaurant I am eating at. Consequently, it would be inaccurate to compare my ratings of a French restaurant in Montreal to the one I did rate in New York or Paris. New York has superior French food (Montreal does not have Classic French food that could compete with, say, the likes of NYC’s Le Coucou, Bouley, Le Relais De Venise L’Entrecôte, Balthazar,  etc. ), and France remains, obviously, the reference for that kind of food. It goes without saying that the 7/10 of my review of Le Casse Noix is more accurately a 10 by Montreal restaurant standards, their Ile Flottante and riz au lait a distant dream for Montreal. Therefore, we are in a completely different set of expectations. Whenever a table goes beyond the standards of its direct competition (a pointer: the relevant dish is either a 9/10 or a 10/10) and offers food of world class quality, I will let it know.  Regarding this meal, all I have to say is that French fine dining, at those prices, even when it is fine enough…will always “taste” overpriced if it is not going to stand out …, but I will repeat it one more time: Le Bonaparte is fine enough.

Chez La Mère Michel (1209 Guy St, Montreal, QC Phone: 514- 934-0473) is a classic French restaurant in Montreal that opened over 50 years ago. I could not make it to Chez La Mère Michel, 50 years ago, but here I am, in 2017, attending my first meal ever at this legendary house. The New York Times once submitted “”for dinner, you have to try Chez La Mère Michel, if only because it might just be the finest of Montreal’s more than 4,000 restaurants“.

The menu is concise, featuring great classics of French cuisine such as rognons de veau flambés a l’armagnac, homard nantua, magret de canard sauce aux agrumes, sole de douvres meuniere, the terrines, etc

I ordered:

Oysters “tresors du large” from Iles de la madeleine – Shucked like … it was shucked by someone who would be the defacto winner of a highly prized competition of the best professional oyster shuckers. There are restaurants specializing in oysters, with shuckers for whom, this level of precise shucking is a distant dream. The oysters were first-rate bivalve molluscs, tasting freshly of the sea.

Escargots, beurre a l’ail parfume au ricard (snails in garlic butter with a splash of ricard) – One proper traditional French Escargots beurre a l’ail. Snails of fine quality. To make it healthy, they did not add too much salt to it. I am fine with that. 7/10

The pan-fried dover sole of my friend was a true dover sole, not the pacific dover sole.  Carefully filleted, lightly cooked as it should. Great sourcing of the ingredients and a classic French preparation that was well mastered by the kitchen (seasoning, the work of flavors and textures, everything was of a high level) . 9/10

Coq au vin (that they translated as “genuine french chicken in wine sauce”)  -This classic from Bourgogne is one of my preferred French classics. The recipe, regardless of its variations, is not rocket science, just time consuming. And of course, as it is the case with all recipes, a great palate will make the difference. The best Coq au vin I had were made with wild roosters which flesh led to an intensity of flavor that was a world away from any coq au vin I ever had in Montreal. Chez la Mere Michel’s got close to those souvenirs, except that wild roosters are rarely used nowadays, here and even in France. They use chicken. Technically well executed red wine-based sauce,the french flavor profile on the forefront, the chicken timely braised (the meat not feeling dry). The use of wild rooster would have led to the sort of fuller taste that I came to expect from the best coq au vin I had, but in the context of Montreal restaurants, this was very good. 8/10

 Crêpe Suzette – the friend, I was dining with, is on the look out for some great crêpe Suzette  in Montreal. I think you can find satisfying crêpe Suzette in town, but I doubt you will find one that is done with the “tour de main” and passion of a good classic table in France. Still, I am expecting such house with long years of cooking classic French food to get me a bit closer to what a good crêpe Suzette  can taste at a fine classic restaurant in France. That is exactly what happened at Chez la mere Michel. No more of the tableside presentation that I am fond of (the city does not allow that anymore) , but a crêpe Suzette  that will, in the context of Montreal, get you as close as it can be, to the delicious traditional crêpe Suzette  that past generations of French have long perceived as the way a good traditional crêpe Suzette  should feel, smell and taste like (dazzling genuine flavors, with an exciting orange confit/grand marnier sauce). Beautiful nostalgy! 8/10

Soufflé grand Marnier – I would have liked it a tad airier, but this was done really well, properly risen, with enticing fresh eggy fragrance.  I could not fault the accompanying Crème Anglaise, mixed with a bit of grand marnier. 7/10

Pros: Easily among the best classic French fares I ever had in Montreal.
Cons: N/A

Overall food rating : 8/10 (Category: Best traditional  French restaurants  in Montreal) – The limitation, here, is … the evolution of trends. Since a long time, now, even in France, many are not cooking their Coq au vin in a certain old fashion way (braising a wild rooster, which I remain  partial to). In the case of the Coq au vin, this has been a major  change, a change that transformed this superb classic into an ordinary dish (chicken is nowadays widely used, but however tasty the chicken…it will never match the character of a Coq au vin made with braised wild rooster). That limitation aside, the sauce revealed how talented their Chef was.

That talent was also noticeable when the excellent dover sole was served. Then came the crepe suzette. The most ‘classiquement Francais” of the crepes  suzettes I ever had in town. Not many Chefs, in Montreal, do cook traditional French food this well. I can imagine how special   this house used to be with its service au gueridon (they dropped that).

Bottom line: Chez La Mère Michel may appear divisive (some have raved about it, but they have also been dubbed a tourist trap by others),  but  that has  to do with their desire to please their patrons. I realized it when my waiters told me that they adapt to the taste  of their customers. I immediately told them that I know and love traditional French food and do expect the Chef to express his classic French  cooking freely. They understood that I was not a tourist, and what came from the kitchen was one of the most inspired traditional   French meals I ever enjoyed in Montreal. To think otherwise, I would have to be utterly ignorant of traditional French cuisine, or some aspects of  it, or to confuse it with something else …

What I think days later – Montreal works really hard to ensure that food loses its soul and  should taste of ..nothing:  Fire (smoking, wood / charcoal grilling, flambeeing) elevates the taste of food? Forbidden! Continue like this,  Montreal! Lachez pas! Foodies around the world have long noticed that our city is the most overrated food city in the world, thanks to your ridiculous policies. As for La Mere Michel,  I have no doubt that it used to be even better when you could  flambée your crepe suzettes before the eyes of your patrons and when the “service au guéridon” was still a reality, but  in the context of a city like Montreal, you have worked wonders.

 

 ​MONTREAL – On the fine dining front, Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal was the major restaurant opening of 2017.  I went eating at AJRM in January. It  did deliver the type of cooking I  came to expect from the big majority of the celebrated restaurants in Montreal: some predictable/safe cooking, but of course…it can always be much more inspired when the food journalists or poster-diners have snatched a seat as  can be observed in the interesting difference between what I did experience Vs what stood as a life-shattering revelation to our  food journalists (just google what the food journalists have raved about and enjoy the bromance!).  At least, I can’t say that I did not know what I was getting into: as predicted  in my review of Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal  ” Occasional local diners as well as our local food jounalists will  be impressed while well travelled foodies will be expecting more in light of the standards that AJR has set elsewhere” –  our local  food journalists were inevitably going to  have a blast, a totally different experience from anonymous /normal customers).

Fortunately, I also found, in Montreal, some restaurants that are cooking great food no matter who you are, and as it should be at  serious restaurants: Le Virunga delivered one of the very best meals I ever had in Montreal. Its Chef, Cheffe Maria by Coco Bee, promotes Pan-African  food with a clin d’oeil at Quebecois cooking. Both African and Quebecois cuisines count among my preferred types of food, but the sceptic and purist  in me is traditionally apprehensive when a chef does not focus on one specific type of food. I did not have to worry as this Cheffe has the skills to wipe away any doubts  about her ambitious programme. Skilled, gifted…whatever the flourishes, she deserves praises for what she is doing right now at Le Virunga.

To continue with the good news on the local restaurant scene, Nozy was another gem I discovered this year, with a true skilled Japanese Chef cooking the genuine food of his motherland. I wish long years of success to this amazing true artisan Chef, and plenty of rewards for not running his restaurant from home (directed at  the myriad of pseudo cooks in Montreal, whose head got big, and are at home, watching tv, while their poorly trained assistants are left to themselves cooking food that should not be served at a restaurant).

Two other local restaurants impressed me during this first quarter, Hvor  with a brilliant  Chef at the helm, as well as Marconi of Chef Mehdi Brunet Benkritly, the last real  Chef that Au Pied de Cochon really had. Hvor, in particular, coming to the rescue right after my just correct / safe meal at Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal.

In little India , Maison Indian Curry House  has consistently delivered the best lamb curry  in town, but the lamb curry is not as consistently good as it used to be (sometimes, some of the chunks of meat are hard, while others are tender and  you need to ask them for the non spicy lamb curry, as the spicy sort is not that great). Their thalis and naan bread are not the best in town, all the rest is fine enough to keep MICH among my go-to places.

I also tried Gandhi and the Taj.  Gandhi is not bad, not the best in town, neither,  but  it is a way too pricey for what I was  getting. Le Taj is pretty, but I was not as satisfied, about its food, as much as at some of the restaurants of Little India.

I finally tried the very popular Escondite, which owners are very successful restaurateurs opening plenty of restaurants inspired from various types of cooking: japanese, hawaian and, in the case of Escondite, mexican. I am usually a bit sceptic about that formula (looking for the concept  that sells)  as it is, usually,  mainly about business (japanese style bistrot sells, so let us open one / tapas sells, so let us do the same thing),  rather than the type of artisan Chef cooking (a true artisan Chef who has mastered his craft his entire life and cooks with heart, first ) I deem worthy of my hard earned money, but hey… heart is not going to make you rich, lol, and the owners of Escondite are not promising artisan Chef cooking. Furthermore, they are opening pleasant restaurants offering enjoyable  food and that was the case of Escondite.

I was also curious to look into some of the major sushiyas in town, so I turned to the  local food experts (food journalists, etc), hoping that their recommendations could be useful. They seemed to have found world class sushiyas ran by exceptional itamae, so off I went to find out. Before I elaborate about my incredible findings, I just want you to know that sushiya/sushiyasan/itamae are generally terms that I use not just to enrich any vocabulary or showing up whatever kind of knowledge, but solely by respect to the true Japanese Craftmanship that we know as Sushi making. But in Montreal, whenever you see me using those terms,  keep in mind that it’s with the deliberate intent to be… sarcastic (rightly so, btw). Montreal is not making sushi. It is just molding rice and leaving pieces of fish on it. It could be whatever kind of rice, and anything that bears resemblance to a fish, does not need to be a fish — to be honest with you — and the aftermath (yep, aftermath is the adequate term, here)  will be the same. In case you think I am exaggerating, I will leave you with my reviews of the so-called (by our local experts) best local sushiyas of Montreal:  Jun I, Park, Sushi Yumi. Baffl.., baffled….I was.

 NEW YORK, on the other hand, is the world class foodie destination that we all know.

New York continues to dazzle, and their big gunz seem more concerned about being consistently great rather than waiting after a poster-diner to find some renewed motivation. Two of their latest “hot” restaurants are Ichimura and Le Coucou, both restaurants would qualify as  destination restaurants anywhere around the globe.

I did also visit Sushi Azabu in February, which  continues to be my preferred Sushiya in NYC.

Then a Brooklyn institution known for its cheesecake, Junior’s. According to the local medias, a rich sheikh had one of Junior’s cheesecakes flying over several continents and oceans to be savoured in his palace. I was not as impressed by that cheesecake, but Junior’s (reviewed here) offers some great food.

In Koreantown, I tried two korean bbqs: one that’s very popular, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, as well as Dons Bogam. The former is a fun place, but it was disappointing on the culinary front, whereas the latter is an elite kbbq spot.

I also tried their most talked about ramenya, Ippudo, which I will review soon. I tried the one that is situated at 65 4th Avenue. Ippudo is not an elite  ramen shop, back in Japan, but in New York, it is doing enoughly well to rank among the very best at what it does. If you can detach yourself from the comparisons to Japan, then you won’t fail to appreciate my latest assertion…eventhough, like most ramen fans who happened to have tried some of the best ramenyas of Tokyo, I, too, would have couple of things to reproach to Ippudo NYC.

As with any major foodie destinations, if you let your guard down, you can stumble upon bad eateries, such as Miss Favella in Brooklyn (reviewed here),  but, overall, NY deserves its reputation as  a true world class foodie destination.

 ATLANTIC CITY – At approximately 2hrs drive from New York, you will find the coastal city of Atlantic city, famous for its picturesque ocean views as well as for its casinos. There, I ate at two of their most popular restaurants: Docks oyster house (seafood) as well as Kelsey & Kim’s (soul food). I will go back to Kelsey & Kim’s but not to Docks.

I​n May 2017, I hope I will be able to attend the burger bash in Atlantic city as some serious burgers will be available at that event. Traditionally, I do not take seriously foodie events of that sort, as the competitors are mainly present for promotional purpose, and it is always a joke to try giving your best miles away from the ingredients and tools that made you famous, but the best burgers of the burger bash event are known as some of America’s most serious burgers. You are on the land of the burger, after all. Of particular interest, during this upcoming 2017 episode of the burger bash:
-The Guinness Bacon cheeseburger from the Hard rock cafe. Atop the beef patty, Jameson bacon jam/Guinness cheese sauce/lettuce and tomato.
-The Margate dairy bar and burger’s The MDB Burger which is composed of a mix of short rib and brisket (from Pat LaFrieda)/lettuce/picles/tomato and American cheese. They will use a secret sauce for their burgers, therefore it will be interesting to see how that sauce would have elevated the burger.
-The Metropolitain’s steak au poivre burger (comes with bacon/gruyere cheese) as well as the Bocca coal fired bistro’s pepadew bacon burger (angus burger/aged white cheddar/pepadew relish/cherry wood smoked bacon/buttery brioche roll) are also on my list of burgers to try.
Event: The burger bash Url: acweekly.com/burgerbash
When: Saturday May 20th, 2017 from 1 to 4pm,
Where: The Deck at Golden nugget, Atlantic city